Adam Silver

Adam Silver: No Plans To Pause NBA Season

Appearing on ESPN’s NBA Today (video links) on Tuesday, league commissioner Adam Silver told Malika Andrews that, despite having an increasing number of its teams affected by outbreaks of COVID-19, the NBA has no intention of putting the 2021/22 season on hiatus.

“(There are) no plans to pause the season,” Silver said. “We’ve of course looked at all the options, but frankly, we’re having trouble coming up with what the logic would be behind pausing right now. … It seems for us that the right and responsible thing to do, taking all the factors into consideration, is to continue to play.”

As Silver explained, the NBA’s stance is that there’s no chance at this point of eradicating the virus, so the league and its teams will have to learn to “live with it.” The NBA and the players’ union recently agreed to tweak a handful of roster rules to make it easier for teams to sign replacements when players test positive for COVID-19, which should help avoid postponements.

Silver made several more interesting comments during his ESPN appearance. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Silver said that very few of the individuals around the NBA who have received a booster vaccination shot have experienced breakthrough cases, and most of those cases have been asymptomatic. Silver estimated that about 97% of NBA players are vaccinated, but only about 65% have been boosted — the league is hoping to push that number higher.
  • Asked if the league has revisited the idea of mandatory vaccinations for players, Silver said it hasn’t been broached recently. “I’d rather focus on the 97% than the 3%,” Silver said, referring to the league’s vaccinated players. “Incidentally, many of the 3% have now gotten COVID, so they’ve developed antibodies. To me, the focus right now is on boosters for the 97% of players who have been vaccinated.”
  • The NBA isn’t prepared to allow vaccinated players who have asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to play, but is “actively” exploring ways to reduce the amount of time players have to spend in the protocols. “I think (medical experts are) already realizing that you can move away from the 10-day protocol when you have players who are vaccinated and boosted,” Silver said. “It seems that the virus runs through their systems faster. They become not just asymptomatic but – more importantly – they’re not shedding the virus anymore.”
  • Most of the players testing positive this month have contracted the Omicron variant of COVID-19, according to Silver. “It’s beyond dominant in the league right now,” he said. “We’re up probably around 90% of the cases right now that we’re sequencing are Omicron.”

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Irving, Mills, Carter, Williams, Robinson

Ben Simmons is expected to address the media Tuesday before the Sixers leave for New Orleans to face the Pelicans on Wednesday, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes. It’s uncertain whether Simmons will suit up for the opener.

“We’ve been together for three weeks, so we’ve established a good rhythm,” coach Doc Rivers said. “So the more he’s been in, the more he does, especially when we’re working on our offensive stuff earlier, because we’ve built from last year but we tweaked a lot of stuff. But it’s easy to pick up — especially for him.”

A source recently told The Athletic’s Sam Amick that Simmons plans to play in games, rather than sitting out while awaiting a trade.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Commissioner Adam Silver said the Nets’ decision to sit Kyrie Irving and the city ordinance that led to that decision is not a league issue, Bontemps writes in a separate story. The Players Association never agreed to a vaccine mandate and Irving is prohibited from playing in Brooklyn unless he’s vaccinated. “This is between Irving and New York City right now,” Silver said. “This is not a league issue … but I think it would have been best for everyone if every player were vaccinated.”
  • With Irving out indefinitely, the Nets will need more out of Patty Mills and Jevon Carter, Zach Brazilier of the New York Post writes. Mills signed with Brooklyn on a two-year contract in free agency, while Carter was acquired in the Landry Shamet deal.
  • The Celtics have an open roster spot after waiving Jabari Parker but they’re not planning to fill it immediately, Jared Weiss of The Athletic tweets. Head coach Ime Udoka said they plan to see who else becomes available around the league but with Boston projected as a taxpaying team, the roster could remain at 14 for the time being.
  • The Celtics rewarded Robert Williams with a four-year extension in August. The goal now is to keep the young center healthy, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald writes. “He’s a young guy we do want to build his role and minutes overall, and a big part of that is staying healthy, so we’re on him about lifting the weights, getting his treatment, take care of himself off the court as well as what we ask him to do on the court,” Udoka said.
  • Mitchell Robinson is still working his way back from a foot injury, though the young Knicks center plans to play in the team’s opener, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Robinson played in the Knicks’ preseason finale on Friday. “Once I get my conditioning back — that’s the main thing — so I can play all day, I’ll be all right,” he said.

NBA Still Considering Possible Mid-Season Tournament

The NBA continues to consider a possible mid-season tournament, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). The concept was addressed in a Competition Committee group call today.

Charania adds that a wrinkle designed to incentivize player interest is a $1MM prize for each player on the winning club. Obviously, for a maximum-salaried veteran, $1MM isn’t a huge incentive, but for players at the end of the roster, it would represent a significant sum.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been contemplating a mid-season tournament for years now. In a 2019 conversation with Marc Stein of the New York Times (now with Substack), Silver explained his thinking behind the concept.

“In the case of European soccer, I think there is something we can learn from them,” Silver told Stein in 2019. “I also recognize I’m up against some of the traditionalists who say no one will care about that other competition, that other trophy, you create. And my response to that is, ‘Organizations have the ability to create new traditions.’ It won’t happen overnight.”

The other change to league play that had been bandied about at the time was a play-in tournament, to expand postseason eligibility for teams, get late-year engagement from additional fanbases, and disincentivize tanking.

After being initially introduced during the league’s Orlando restart “bubble” to conclude the 2019/20 season, the play-in tournament was revised for the 2020/21 season. It proved a hit with fans, and looks to remain a part of the NBA for years to come. No doubt the league is hoping for similar success and increased eyeballs with a mid-season tournament.

And-Ones: Rose, Roberts, Thunder’s Arena, Free Agents, Silver

NBA VP of basketball operations Malik Rose is a candidate to succeed Michele Roberts as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, Marc Stein of Substack tweets. Roberts recently told Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill she planned to stay at her post for “another six or so months.” Rose was an assistant GM with the Pistons for two seasons prior to accepting his current post last June. 

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • A new name for the Thunder‘s arena will be revealed as soon as next week, Steve Lackmeyer of The Oklahoman writes. Signage for the Chesapeake Energy Arena was removed on Thursday. The team has a naming rights deal in place, pending approval of its application from the Downtown Design Review Committee.
  • Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul and John Collins are the top three potential free agents, according to a ranking system used by The Athletic’s John Hollinger. The top 20 free agents are ranked, with Hollinger projecting potential contracts offers for those players.
  • The challenges over the past two seasons created by the virus have been immense but NBA commissioner Adam Silver hopes it has brought a better understanding between management and players, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “That sense of unity, I hope we can keep up,” Silver said. “I think the players have a better understanding of what we’re up against in trying to run this business, and we have a better understanding of the players — what it’s like to travel the amount they do, the stresses they’re under, the emotional and physical burdens they’re under by competing at this level.”

And-Ones: NBPA, V. Baker, Hervey, Okobo, NBA Parity

In an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts spoke about why she considers this season a success, what role she plays in the union’s decision-making process, and the criticisms some players, including LeBron James, have vocalized about the shortened offseason heading into this year.

The recommendation to start in December came from the league,” Roberts said. “So the big ask was, could we start the games in December? And the answer was not yes from Michele. The decision to play or not to play comes from the players.”

As far as the criticisms from James, and others who may agree with him, Roberts’ reinforced her support for players voicing dissenting opinions. “I don’t have a problem with players that articulate their opposition to decisions that were made,” she said. “That’s their absolute right. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

We have more news from around the basketball community:

  • Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times writes about Bucks‘ assistant coach Vin Baker‘s rise as an NBA star, his battles with alcoholism – which included him drinking Bacardi Limón from a water bottle during games – and his eventual recovery and progression back to the world of the NBA. “This was an opportunity that was afforded to me not to screw up,” Baker said. “It’s not about me. Like it’s not about ‘I made it. I’m a coach of the Bucks.’ It’s about there’s somebody watching.”
  • Virtus Bologna has signed Kevin Hervey to a two-year deal, tweets Donatas Urbonas, a Lithuania-based reporter. The deal for the former Thunder second-round pick had been reported to be in the works in recent weeks.
  • Elie Okobo, the 31st pick in the 2018 draft, has signed with ASVEL Basket in France, reports Dario Skerletic of Sportando. Okobo will join former NBA players Norris Cole and Guerschon Yabusele, as well as top 2023 prospect Victor Wembanyama.
  • The “Parity Era” in the NBA may be here, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “I see this as, hopefully, the end of a transition for the league,” Reynolds quotes commissioner Adam Silver as saying. “Not just post-COVID, but just by virtue of the teams that we saw in the conference finals, a real transition in terms of the league of the up-and-coming new stars, up-and-coming franchises, more parity throughout the league.” Whether that’s the case or whether injuries played more of a role in the playoffs shaping up the way they did remains to be seen.

And-Ones: Paul, Silver, Canaan, Mickey

Suns guard and NBPA president Chris Paul spoke about the NBA’s ongoing injury problem this postseason, making it clear that every player has the right to make their voice heard about topics discussed with the league throughout the year.

Several key players have dealt with injuries throughout the playoffs, including Paul himself. It’s unclear whether the compressed schedule has played a large role or whether the league has simply experienced bad luck — or a combination of both.

“Man, one thing about our league and its players is everything is always a conversation,” Paul said, as relayed by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. “There’s a ton of guys on the executive committee who are working hard on things right now, as we speak — day in and day out, traveling. I wish you guys knew all the things that are going on. So, decisions that are made as far as playing or not playing, players are always involved in it.

“Injuries are always unfortunate. You hate to have them. But just like when we went to the bubble, everything was discussed as far as the players and the full body of players. Everything that’s good for this guy and that guy might not be the same for that guy, but everything has always been a conversation, and it’s going to continue to be that way. So, if people don’t like it, then you know everybody has the same opportunity to be a part of all these conversations.”

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world today:

  • Allowing fans back into arenas helped the NBA with financial losses caused by COVID-19, commissioner Adam Silver said, as relayed by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “We did somewhat better than we initially projected,” said Silver. “We don’t have the exact numbers yet, but maybe we’ll be down roughly a third in revenue, something around there, instead of 40%.”
  • Isaiah Canaan has signed an extension with Unics Kazan in Russia, the team announced (via Twitter). Canaan, a former NBA guard, averaged 14.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in 43 outings with the club last season.
  • Free agent big man Jordan Mickey has signed with Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia, the team announced (Twitter link). Mickey, the No. 33 pick in 2015, holds NBA experience with the Celtics and Heat.

Adam Silver Talks Injuries, Raptors, Representation, Play-In Tournament, Expansion

NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke with the media ahead of Game 1 of the NBA Finals. During his media session, he covered a wide variety of topics, shedding light on his and the league’s mindset heading into next season and beyond.

Silver admitted that the compressed schedule could have had an effect on the unusually high number of severe injuries this season, saying “I have no doubt the physical stress and mental toll has contributed to injuries,” (Twitter link via USA Today’s Mark Medina).

Silver also introduced the topic of an internal clock, saying because NBA players are used to playing within a certain time-frame in a given year, changing that time-frame radically could have an effect on injuries. He admitted that, given the extraordinary circumstances, it’s hard to say whether the choices the league made were the right ones, tweets Medina.

“Quite frankly,” Silver said, “we might not know for quite a while after this pandemic is over, whether we made the right decision or not.”

Silver also discussed the Raptors, who – given the U.S./Canada border restrictions – had to play out this season in Tampa. According to Marc Stein (Twitter link), Silver said it’s “unclear” if the Raptors will be able to return to Toronto for next season, but that the team and the league are hopeful.

On the topic of black and female representation, both among coaching staffs and around the league, Silver was adamant that the league most look to improve itself. “It’s something that requires daily attention,Medina quotes Silver as saying. “We’re not gonna rest on our laurels.”

It’s a little bit frustrating,” Silver continued. “It’s an area you look around here, and you’d like to see more representation here with all aspects of our business.”

Silver was optimistic about the continued existence of the play-in tournament, which has been a ratings success over the last two seasons. “It’s my expectation we’ll continue it for next season,” Silver said (Twitter link via Brian Lewis of The New York Post). Silver added that the decision is pending an agreement between the players’ union and the teams, and that some players, including LeBron James, were not a fan of the tournament.

Finally, on the topic of league expansion, Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated tweets that Silver says “it’s not at the top of the agenda right now,” but that he’ll continue to consider at the topic.

Southeast Notes: Randle, Magic, Heat, Silver Talks Hawks

Magic reserve point guard Chasson Randle, who signed a two-way contract with the club in February, helped shore up the Orlando bench’s ball-handling and shooting needs, writes Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. In 41 games with Orlando (including five starts), Randle averaged 6.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.8 APG and 0.5 SPG across just 20.4 MPG. He posted a slash line of .388/.338/.792. Randle, 27, played for the Sixers, Knicks, and Warriors prior to his Magic tenure.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic announced their intentions to enter full rebuild mode with a trio of trades this season, dealing veterans Nikola Vučević, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier for young players and future draft equity. In a mailbag, Josh Robbins of The Athletic takes a look at timelines for the team’s rebuild and hiring a new head coach, plus other items. Robbins anticipates that the Magic will take as long as they need to accrue players with All-NBA ceilings, and that they’re in better position to take a chance on a more inexperienced coach than some other “win-now” clubs with similar vacancies.
  • The Heat took a disappointing step backwards this season, regressing from a 2020 Finals appearance to a first-round playoff sweep in 2021. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald examines practical options for improving the club should it opt to use cap space, among them signing veteran Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. Jackson also takes a look at roster additions Miami could make if it decides to continue operating over the salary cap.
  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke with Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the rising Hawks and their best player, point guard Trae Young. “It’s part and parcel of professional sports that there’s invariably a passing of the torch,” Silver said of Young’s ascent. “Trae, I’ve said, is one of them, and it’s an incredible opportunity for this new generation of stars to perform on the biggest stage and in front of an enormous global audience.” Silver also mentioned that, in light of the 2021 All-Star game transpiring in Atlanta mid-pandemic, the league was keeping Atlanta in mind as a destination for a more normal future contest. “The answer is a resounding yes, that was always part of the understanding with [owners Antony Ressler and Steven Price] that the league was very appreciative that they came through for us on relative short notice and agreed to host that All-Star game, and now of course talking to you after the fact, it was even, frankly, more successful than we thought it would have been.”

NBA Remains Interested In Midseason Tournament

After the new play-in tournament proved to be something of a ratings bonanza this week, the NBA appears hopeful that it can come to an agreement with the National Basketball Players’ Association about creating a midseason tournament, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Woj reports that NBA commissioner Adam Silver thinks the league will be able to convince the rest of the Board of Governors (comprising Silver, the owners of all 30 teams, and their representatives) to bring the concept to a vote down the road. The midseason tournament idea had previously not made it to the voting stage when it was considered before the pandemic.

Two-thirds of team owners would need to support the measure for it to be enacted. The earliest a midseason tournament could be implemented now would be the 2022/23 season.

Silver believes a midseason tournament will be able to help keep fans invested during a lengthy regular season that has sometimes struggled to maintain interest ahead of the playoffs. The original proposal also included a pitch to reduce the NBA regular season from 82 games to 78 in order to accommodate a midseason competition.

Previously, the league had been looking to model its midseason tournament around the structure that European football currently uses. The NBA was considering an eight-game single-elimination competition. Each player on the victorious squad would be rewarded with a $1MM payout, under this original proposal.

Adam Silver Talks Play-In, ’21/22 Start Date, Arena Capacities

During an appearance on Friday’s episode of Keyshawn, J-Will and Zubin on ESPN Radio (video link), NBA commissioner Adam Silver made it clear that his preference would be for the play-in tournament to be a mainstay for years to come, as long as the teams and players are on board.

“I haven’t made any secret that I want it to be (around long-term),” Silver said, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps.

The Lakers/Warriors play-in game on Wednesday was a major ratings success, becoming ESPN’s most-watched NBA telecast since the 2019 Western Conference Finals, per a press release. Silver acknowledged that not all of this year’s play-in games have been on the same level as that one, but suggested that the positive effects of the play-in format go beyond this week’s TV ratings.

According to Silver, the format resulted in a higher quality of play – and stronger ratings – during the final few weeks of the regular season as teams battled for positioning in the standings.

“(It) was causing teams, who frankly otherwise may have thrown in the towel some number of weeks back, to fight for those last playoff spots,” Silver said.

Here’s more from the NBA commissioner:

  • Silver confirmed today that the NBA’s plan is for the 2021/22 season to begin at its usual time in October. That would mean two consecutive shorter-than-usual offseasons in 2020 and 2021, but Silver pointed out that the break this summer wouldn’t be as brief as it was a year ago.
  • Silver believes we could see sellout crowds – or close to it – for the NBA Finals in July, as Bontemps details. “I think it’s very possible that come July, when our Finals will be, you’ll see essentially full buildings,” Silver said. The commissioner, who added that “close to 80%” of the NBA’s players have received COVID-19 vaccinations, cautioned that the league will still be “fairly conservative” about filling seats on or near the court.
  • Silver took exception to the idea that the NBA needs its big-market teams to play well to be successful, suggesting that superstars like Giannis Antetokounmpo can turn even small-market clubs like the Bucks into marquee franchises (video link). He also explained why the NBA fined Hawks coach Nate McMillan for suggesting the league wants to see the Knicks do well: “Nate’s a veteran coach and he knows better. He’s trying to inspire his team to try and suggest the league would somehow prefer some teams over others, and it’s just not the case. He knows it and he’s just got a young team and wants to get them going.”